Good afternoon,

I have read the canonical question about datives and seem to understand examples and differences of dative case types with indirect object pronouns.

But I still cannot understand how these 2 examples below are formed. Could you please help, explaining this, and saying which of 4 types of dative cases these examples belong to (regarding use of "le" and "les" here):

1) "Los hombres de Doyle le tienen miedo" - Doyle's guys are scared of him. Here "le" is not used in the meaning "him". So why simply not to say like this: "Los hombres de Doyle tiene miedo de él".

2) Same here, but in plural: "¿No les temes?" - "And are you not scared of them?

Appreciate your help.

  • Yes, thank you. Will check for this tag. So the use of "le" in these sentences does not apply to dative cases explanation. This is different topic. I understand now.
    – Alex
    Oct 5, 2019 at 16:32
  • That canonical q-a page is intended to clear up "funny" datives, i.e. the use of ostensibly dative complements for grammatical roles other than a straightforward indirect object. So if a verb just normally takes an indirect object, that page won't have any explanation for that.
    – pablodf76
    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:48
  • Yeah. I really didn't know before that there are some complicated verbs that could employ indirect object pronouns (like temer). As I already said, it helps me now to figuratively translate "you show your fears for them" (thus making a case for using indirect object pronoun) and literally "you are afraid of them". Or I just need to remember such verbs (like a chunk of words). I think there are not that many complicated verbs like temer, but if I am wrong, please correct me.
    – Alex
    Oct 6, 2019 at 10:32
  • I myself hadn't noticed the oddity of temer at first. I wouldn't know if there are many such verbs.
    – pablodf76
    Oct 6, 2019 at 14:27

1 Answer 1


Your first example shows a couple of confusions.

1) "Los hombres de Doyle le tienen miedo" - Doyle's guys are scared of him. Here "le" is not used in the meaning "him". So why simply not to say like this: "Los hombres de Doyle tiene miedo de él".

It seems here you are trying to translate literally from English, and also mixing up two alternative syntaxes for the idiomatic phrase tener miedo. You'll understand it better with simpler examples using some imaginary characters Alice and Bob:

  1. Alice tiene miedo de Bob.
  2. Alice le tiene miedo a Bob.

Both of these mean "Alice fears Bob; Alice is afraid/scared of Bob". In #1 we use a complement headed by de. In #2 we use an indirect object, which (as usual) is preceded by a. In the latter example we also have to use le, even though it looks redundant, because that's a rule (Alice tiene miedo a Bob is ungrammatical). If we replace Bob by a pronoun, we have:

  1. Alice tiene miedo de él.
  2. Alice le tiene miedo a él.

In this version of #2, adding a él is emphatic. If the context is such that it's already clear who is being referred to (él), the last part becomes truly redundant and you could leave it out:

  1. Alice le tiene miedo.

We would only add a él in this case if we want to emphasize that Alice is afraid of "him" and not of somebody else.

As for the second example:

2) Same here, but in plural: "¿No les temes?" - "And are you not scared of them?"

Here we have the verb temer, not the phrase tener miedo. Temer is a somewhat complicated verb because it can be used as transitive or intransitive but with an indirect object. The latter is more common, especially when speaking of fear of people, and that's what's happening here. That's why it's ¿No les temes? and not ¿No los temes?. It works the same as the second pattern that we've seen for tener miedo.

The emphatic version would add a redundant pronoun:

¿No les temes a ellos?

If we wanted to name the people you fear explicitly, we'd have to do it as above:

¿No les temes a los hombres de Doyle?

I hope this clarifies your doubts a bit. If not, just say so in the comments.

  • Thank you for thorough explanation. I now understand. I actually know grammar regarding the use of indirect object pronouns. But I always thought of them in the context of dative case. So when I saw sentence "no les temes", it confused me, because here is no dative case and I thought "les" should not be used here in the first place (never). Now I understand it is used mostly because of the complicated verb temer. Even though we can figuratively translate as "don't give them fears" (for tener miedo and temer). I think it is solved.
    – Alex
    Oct 5, 2019 at 21:29
  • @aparente001 No, I'm talking about the #2 above; the indirect object is a Bob.
    – pablodf76
    Oct 6, 2019 at 1:43
  • I don't know how I managed to misread that first pair. I read them three times, and I got it wrong all three times. Oct 6, 2019 at 3:44
  • I think I will delete my comments -- they're obsolete now. Oct 6, 2019 at 3:53

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